By Ju’Riese Colon, Chief Executive Officer, U.S. Center for SafeSport
Sport is powerful. It can teach leadership skills, build camaraderie, and demonstrate what real teamwork looks like. Sport builds resiliency and has created heroes and role models for many of us, myself included. But, when something is so powerful, it doesn’t take much for the pendulum to swing the other way. And we’ve all seen what that looks like – people and institutions that were trusted, believed in, and supported by many have managed to use that power to do harm.
Over the past five years, the U.S. Center for SafeSport has worked to usher in a new era of accountability to build and enforce structures that support youth in their athletic journeys. For the Center, this started with the introduction of the Minor Athlete Abuse Prevention Polices (MAAPP), a set of comprehensive policies that focuses on creating safe environments and clear guidelines to help sporting organizations implement practices that put safety first. The MAAPP limits one-on-one contact, defines prohibited conduct, and lays out stronger team travel requirements for youth. These policies also identify who should be trained to report sexual, emotional, and physical abuse and misconduct, going further than many mandatory reporting laws by creating additional layers of protection.
Of course, even the strongest policies can’t do it all – consistent implementation and ongoing focus are key to creating safe environments. Truly putting athlete well-being first, empowering parents with the right questions to ask, and taking the time to recognize the work that many coaches put in every day to build strong teams is ultimately how we build healthy culture.
I’m often asked what a good, positive culture looks like – where does it begin, and how do you know when you’ve achieved it? The answer is never simple and can be different for every team, every community, and every organization. But there are a few things that I encourage everyone to ask themselves to help figure out where their team’s culture stands:
To report if you have experienced abuse or misconduct – or you have reasonable suspicion of abuse or misconduct inflicted on, or by, someone in the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Movement, click here.
Ju’Riese Colón is the Chief Executive Officer of the U.S. Center for SafeSport, where since July 2019 she has led the organization’s strategic vision and direction. An experienced child advocate who serves as an expert on issues related to child safety, Ju’Riese has led prevention and outreach initiatives with youth-serving organizations serving families, educators, law enforcement, and diverse communities.